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Former NHLer Raymond Sawada has died at the age of 38 after reportedly suffering a heart attack during a rec-league hockey game.
According to a GoFundMe account set up to raise money for his family, Sawada was playing for his rec-league team, the Richmond Cowboys, on Monday evening. The Vancouver Sun reports that the former Dallas Star died after suffering a heart attack.
“They were having an Easter dinner combination with his daughter’s birthday,” family friend and president of the Richmond Sockeyes, the local Junior-B hockey club. “He left the family dinner, went off to play hockey, and never made it back home. It’s so tragic. It’s just not fair.”
Sawada was drafted by the Dallas Stars in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. However, he went on to play college hockey at Cornell where he captained the Big Red.
After his senior season, he turned pro with the AHL’s Iowa Stars. He went on to play 11 games in the NHL throughout three seasons from 2008 to 2011. In between NHL appearances, Sawada played for AHL’s Manitoba Moose, Texas Stars, and St. Johns Ice Caps, as well as the ECHL Colorado Eagles.
During the 2013-14 season, Sawada traveled overseas where he played 29 games for Tappara Tampere of Finland’s SM-Liiga. The following season, Sawada played his final year of professional hockey. That season was spent in Northern Ireland with the Belfast Giants of the UK’s Elite Ice Hockey League.
Sawada Returned To British Columbia After His Pro Career
Upon his retirement, Sawada returned to his native British Columbia where he worked as a firefighter for the City of Burnaby.
There was an outpouring of statements after news broke of Sawada’s death. One of those tributes came from Calgary Flames defenseman Troy Stecher.
His former teams also sent their condolences.
“It is with heavy hearts we mourn the passing of former Stars player, Raymond Sawada,” the Dallas Stars said in a statement. “Our love goes out to his family, friends, and all the people he impacted in hockey and as a firefighter in his community.”
Sawada’s alma mater paid tribute to him on Twitter.
The GoFundMe for Sawada’s family quickly surpassed its goal of raising $50,000. At last check, nearly $230,000 had been raised.
Follow on Twitter: @Matt_Reigle